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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 20:40 GMT
Lindh police overcome the past

By Lars Bevanger
BBC, Stockholm

Just hours after the deadly attack on Anna Lindh in September last year, the media here were breathing down investigators' necks.

The memory of the failed investigation into the shooting of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 had haunted the country for 16 years - and it returned with a vengeance.

Anna Lindh
Anna Lindh was a top politician killed in her prime, like Olof Palme
Palme was shot on the street as he emerged from a cinema with his wife. The crime was never solved - and no-one was ready to accept another failure.

Given the eerie similarities with the Lindh case, the media apprehension was understandable.

Anna Lindh was also a top politician in her prime, popular with the people, killed by a lone man while going about her private business in the central of Stockholm.

DNA evidence

"It was clear that if they didn't solve the Lindh case, people would lose all faith in the police, the judiciary and the society we live in," Anders Helberg, a journalist on the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter told BBC News Online.

Security video footage showing the suspect
Head start: Police had a murder weapon and security video images
"The Palme case was a stone around the neck of this investigation from the beginning, but this time the work has been performed by very professional murder investigators, who knew what they were doing."

Compared with the Palme investigators, they had a major head start. They had the murder weapon, images of a possible killer from security cameras and a witness - Anna Lindh's friend - who had stared the attacker in the face.

There was an initial setback when the wrong man was arrested less than a week after the killing - but a new suspect was arrested at the same time the first was released.

He was 25-year-old Mijailo Mijailovic, the man who has now confessed to killing Anna Lindh.

It soon emerged there was DNA evidence linking him to the murder weapon - obtained painstakingly both by British and Swedish laboratories.

Clothes had also been found with both his and Anna Lindh's blood on them.

No rush

Even so, the investigators did not rush to file formal charges against Mr Mijailovic, but spent three-and-a-half months gathering further evidence and witness statements.

On Monday they were able to unveil a document more than 1000 pages long, which now forms the basis of the trial against Mijailo Mijailovic.

When it comes to the way the [Lindh and Palme] investigations were undertaken I cannot really see any similarities
National police chief Sten Hecksher
His lawyer says it was the overwhelming evidence which last week made him confess.

Most Swedish people are satisfied the crime has been solved, all they want to know is why it was committed.

In the Palme case, failure was blamed on shoddy police work and the chief investigator's lack of experience conducting murder investigations.

A man convicted for the murder was later released on appeal due to lack of evidence.

This time, national police chief Sten Hecksher has expressed great satisfaction with the police work which brought the suspect to the dock.

He declined to say what effect the failed Palme investigation had had on the Lindh investigators, but did not entirely manage to hide his dissatisfaction with the earlier case.

"When it comes to the way the investigations were undertaken," he said, "I cannot really see any similarities."




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